The new Square Kilometre Array telescope (SKA) is set to be the world’s largest radio telescope, and 50 times more sensitive than its predecessor. It will cost £1.3bn, and is likely to be built in Australia or South Africa, but will have its headquarters firmly planted at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire.
The SKA telescope will have a receiving area of one square kilometre, meaning it could pick up a mobile phone signal on Neptune. But why do we need such a huge international piece of equipment?
Why do bigger telescopes mean bigger findings?
- Bigger telescopes gather more light and produce higher resolution images
- The introduction of bigger telescopes will allow us to study Earth-sized planets around local stars. This will allow us to determine how rare Earth is and subsequently, how likely Earth-like life is to exist elsewhere in the galaxy
- Larger telescopes gathering more light will enable astronomers to detect fainter objects that existed further back in the Universe’s history
Could the SKA reveal the origins of the Universe?
- Perhaps – the hope is that future telescopes, such as the SKA, will be able to see ‘first light’ – when the first stars formed out of the primordial universe’s post-Big Bang mass, roughly 14 billion years ago